If you are thinking about buying a house you are probably wondering how you are going to buy the right house. You want to pay the right price for a good house that you can afford and that will serve your needs.
I have just completed a veritable whirlwind of eager buyers entering into escrow and I can tell you each and every one of those precious Chilluns celebrated for exactly one nano-second and then exclaimed, “Oh, Lordy, have I made a mistake?!”
This is why you get a home inspection. An inspector is a nice, neutral way to ensure there are no hidden problems that will bite you after the close of escrow. And, since he/she gets paid upfront, you can feel secure that they are telling the unvarnished truth.
What is a home inspection?
A home inspector is usually a liscenced general contractor. This qualifies them as a generalist who can assess the mechanical, structural and general condition of the home. A professional home inspector does not do repairs or contracting.
The inspector will examine everything he or she can access, from testing windows and doors and electrical outlets to crawling above and below and around the home surveying foundation, roof and water drainage. The average house in this area will take at least 2 hours to inspect and the buyer will receive a written report with photos illustrating the findings.
Why should a buyer get a professional home inspection?
In California our contract specifies that a home is purchased in “present condition”. This means that the seller will tell you anything that they know is a defect, but they are not going to fix, change or replace anything, upfront. However, the buyer has the right to inspect to see if the property matches their expectations and, if there are problems (from the buyer’s point of view), they can ask the seller for a remedy. All parties must come to an agreement or the deal will fall apart.
A professional inspection is certainly not a requirement, but I have found that it helps both the buyer and seller find a way to agree. The seller is only going to cough up big bucks if they believe there is a problem in the first place!
What do I do with the report?
Ok, first rule of home inspections: do not expect the seller to fix every rootin tootin thing on that report! Other than a simple notation of facts, the lovely inspector is telling you two basic things, what is a defect (i.e. broken) and what is not “to code”. Children- our homes were built a long time ago and building codes have changed. If you want a home that is “to code” I have heard there are lovely new homes to buy in Santa Clarita.
What can I ask the seller to fix?
There is no set rule book, and your results will vary based on the specific situation and the negotiation skills of your agent. Most sellers will entertain a conversation around something that is actually broken, but many items are in the “not optimal” category. Arguably, this negotiation takes far more skill than hammering out the purchase price.
Bottom Line it for me
Even if your specific situation means the seller fixes nothing, it is far better to find out before you are in danger of losing any of your deposit. Get the inspection, use every ounce of negotiation skill your agent possesses and, in the end, make an informed decision on whether or not this is the right home for you.